Disorder and Symptoms Anorexia Nervosa

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Psychological Disorder and Symptoms:

Anorexia Nervosa is a disorder classified by extreme weight loss that is not appropriate for the adolescents or adults age. "Individuals with this disorder typically display an intense fear of gaining weight or of becoming fat" (American Psychiatric Association). Individuals not only fear weight gain when being at target level BMI but also when skinny. Weight loss can be an achievement for the individual and weight gain can be a failure for the individual. Often times the individual weighs themselves frequently to check weight and focuses on their body in the mirror to see which areas are "fat" on their body. These individuals realize that they are skinny but don't realize the extremes they are going to, medically in order to have the body they want (American Psychiatric Association).Symptoms that people generally have with Anorexia Nervosa are; decreased number of calories they should be taking in and reduction of food that they would usually eat. Some more severe symptoms are excessive exercising, purging either by vomiting or with laxative or binge eating. Not only are there physical symptoms that these individuals go through but there are mental ones too. These individuals are in denial of their weight loss and hardly ever complain about it. Problems with weight loss normally come up by the family when they realize how malnourished the family member is. An individual with this disorder relies heavily on self-esteem based off of what their "distorted" body shape looks like and the weight they have lost (American Psychiatric Association). Individuals that have severe symptoms often have bouts of depressive moods, isolate themselves socially and can become irritable. An individual with severe symptoms can also be concerned with eating in public, controlling their environment, and might look emotionally drained. Individuals might also turn to abusing drugs, medications, or alcohol in order to achieve weight loss target.

Gender-Related Information:

Specifically, what gender this disorder mostly occurs in which is "more than 90% are white females and 25% are white males" (Wing). The age of onset in individuals with this disorder is prior to 25 and symptoms are generally manifested by 25 to 30 years of age. However, this disorder is rising in young adolescents between the ages of 16-17 so precise statistics are hard to distinguish (Bemis).Etiology of this disorder comes from multiple aspects of the individual's life. There are several different factors that can impact this disorder. According to Kelly Bemis, there have been many clinical reports that have stated that anorexic behavior is first manifested in response to new situations for which existing skills seem inadequate; for example, entering college, marriage, or puberty itself.However, there are also four factors that impact the manifestation of symptoms as well. The first one is the biological dimension which involves being overweight, hormonal differences with puberty and neurological factors. The second one is the psychological dimension which involves individuals being dissatisfied with their body image or having low self-esteem, lack of control, physical or sexual abuse as a child. The third one is the social dimension which impacts the individual's attitude based off of parent's comments or interactions with their child's weight gain or with mothers who are concerned with their child's weight gain. Also, it could stem from being bullied when they were a child due to how much they weighed or they could experience peer pressure of other individuals who are watching their weight or taking laxatives to get rid of their food to have the "perfect body." The last impact is the sociocultural dimension which involves social comparison with other people, comparison with females or males on the television and cultural definition of beauty (Wing).

Treatment and Interventions:

Anorexia Nervosa has one of the highest mortality rates of any mental disorder, and data suggests that early improvement- both early treatment response as well as the recovery within a window of several years- are crucial prognostic indicators according to Heather Thompson-Brenner.Family therapy is just one of the therapies that can be used in treatment for Anorexia. Family therapists core focus is to involve the family and help them to understand that this is not just a problem but a disease for the individual. During this period the therapist helps the individual and the family to understand and work together to help the individual be a healthier person again. Some of the steps include creating a meal plan, helping the child succeed in eating by sitting there until their plate is finished, and not criticizing the child for their eating habits anymore. This therapy has been incredibly successful according to the study done by Leanna Isserlin and Jennifer Couturier.In this study, the therapist is centered completely on therapeutic alliance with the client and his or her family during the treatment. Treatment consists of the family members, the therapist, and the client to a line with each other in order to help the client feel safe and secure in their home environment. The alliance was measured by using the System for Observing Family Therapy Alliances Scale. The results were that clients that gained "85% of their ideal body weight at the end of the treatment had parents who showed a stronger therapeutic alliance with the therapist and adolescent during the treatment time. Overall, family-based treatment is best when the family member, client, and therapist all strive for a common goal which is to help the client be happy and healthy again (Isserlin).

Additional Research:

If I had more time to research this topic I would dive deeper into the psychodynamics of women and men's brains when having this disorder. I think it would be interesting to understand the differences between what a woman thinks with disease and what a man think with this disease. Women nowadays are so focused on the perfect body or trying to mirror their body off of a character on a tv show or a celebrity in a magazine. It just interests me what men think; do they compare themselves to other men around them or do they focus on only their body. Obviously, men are either good at hiding eating disorders or they just don't have enough records to prove that men are highly susceptible to Anorexia as well. I find it fascinating that the numbers of male and female differ so drastically when dealing with eating disorders. All in all, I would want to delve into the aspects that a man goes through with anorexia to help me understand how men differ from women with anorexia.


Anorexia Nervosa is a disorder that is classified by extreme weight loss that an individual is doing to themselves. Symptoms can vary between subtypes but they all focus on food whether the individual is forcing the food out of there body or starving themselves from the food. Etiology of Anorexia revolves around four main aspects that all involve either how the person sees themselves in society or how society sees them. Treatment for Anorexia is best through therapy whether it's psychotherapy, individual therapy, or family-based therapy. They all provide an environment for the individual to understand that they have a problem. Overall, Anorexia is a serious disorder that should be treated promptly to help the individual be happy and healthy.

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Disorder and Symptoms Anorexia Nervosa. (2019, Aug 16). Retrieved July 14, 2024 , from

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